James Russell

Arnos Grove (2012)


James Russell’s exciting new collection is a variety show of straddled borders: between abstract modernist diction and the frankly personal (often within a single poem); between a Browning-like ventriloquising of vivid or ambiguous personae and up-front ruminations; between the challenging and the easy meat, broad comedy and the darkly philosophic; between the gravity of dementia and death and the giddily playful; between wistful romantic lyrics and an anguished striving towards the unsayable.

Often, an evocative lyricism is scorched with intense painterly textures: ‘Electric music slides down a camber of cold air / to a carpet of tar. None of us can bear the silence / breaking it with explanations for the present forms / of privilege and curtain cream … (title poem). Each visit to Arnos Grove reveals greater variegations of insight and sparkles of black humour in what is an always surprising, unconventional volume: ‘An aquarium smell in the Botanical Gardens / surely a blob fish caught in the higher branches / filleted by the wind like a bad argument’ (‘Belfast’).

Russell hammers a brilliant verbalism on the anvil of not-so-everyday experiences, plumbing diverse vocabularies from the psychological to the slang, sparking harmonic dissociations. Take up this invitation to explore the colourful, chameleon, original voicings of Arnos Grove.

ISBN: ISBN 978-1-906742-54-6 Category:

Praise and Poems

The Sixty-Four Seasons (Oleander) marked a change of direction in Russell’s work. One of the most accessible and protean of Cambridge modernists, his work encompasses a vast range emotionally, culturally and indeed playfully — the jouissance of the I Ching being typical of him. Like the very different Geoffrey Grigson, his best work has emerged well into his career: Arnos Grove raises the bar even on the magnificent The Sixty-Four Seasons.

Russell’s latest volume Arnos Grove further shows a jump-cut in his recent development, the kind poets often make, if at all, in their early thirties. If not wholly unexpected, it still moves his work onto another plane of linguisitc intensity, playfulness (even more than previously), variety and pitch, and another experience altogether. Each Russell volume is now an event, edged — for his loyal readers — with an apprehension that he can’t get better and so differently: then relief that he does.
Simon Jenner

Strong, compulsive, often brilliant, never less than buoyantly intelligent, full-on, mostly and rightly comfortless, impressively rangy and full of involving stuff from underneath the arches and the wilder reaches of a prickly brain. Most contemporary poetry is dull and preachy by comparison. Arnos Grove entertains and jostles.
John Kerrigan

Another Year of This

Here is a dusty dish under the sky
some hope to repossess shining.
Rupture-rate of cloud-high old sun
fitted to crass habit through shot glass.

True, discernable decline in plenty scores
a narrative ache pale as roast pork
which is just a waitress-walk from here.
Chimney pots, real but out of reach as

a beloved anapaest, do not stand to mock
the Count who does not,
downloading sighs onto a wicker bed
on coverlet cross-hatched with print

spelling catastrophe but settling for clues.
He knows they will invade beneath
the floorboards, their intricate piping
of weapons disguised as tiered cake.

He knows their mock entrails.
He knows their route to seethe
and the electric force of their delicious
soup. Accumulation through restraint.

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